Fueled by Passion

Last week the Indiana Bankers Association hosted another highly successful Mega Conference, drawing nearly 1,200 attendees, including 950 bankers and directors. Attendees of the Wednesday luncheon enjoyed the unique insights of keynote speaker Ken Schmidt. As the former director of communications of Harley-Davidson Motor Company, Ken holds primary responsibility for the dramatic turnaround of the world’s most famous motorcycle brand. Harley-Davidson had been in bankruptcy proceedings when the company revamped its approach to doing business by focusing on potential “disciples.”

While Harley-Davidson sells motorcycles and ancillary products, its real business is selling fun. In fact its main competition is not other motorcycle manufacturers, but instead those who seek to fill consumers’ discretionary time. People have precious little discretionary time beyond work and sleep, pitting Harley-Davidson into competition with golf, fishing, boating and other leisure activities.

To compete successfully, Harley-Davidson developed the approach of listening to its potential disciples. Customers who are so happy with their Harley-Davidson products and experiences will spread the word to their friends and family, thus becoming disciples. Harley-Davidson focuses much of its sales effort on allowing potential disciples to talk about what they would like to have or do. We humans like to talk about ourselves, and Harley-Davidson taps into that desire.

Humans also are driven by passion. Whatever we are passionate about, we do well — extremely well. Harley-Davidson enlists its most passionate employees to interact with customers.

Another point Ken made is that there is little product differentiation. A motorcycle is a motorcycle. A deposit account is a deposit account. The only difference from company to company is people. If your company employs talented, passionate people who connect with customers, your company will succeed.

Are your customers disciples, telling their friends and family what a terrific bank or company that you are? Are your employees passionate about your organization? Are your employees passionate about the work they do? If we are honest, most of us would have to answer no to some or all of these questions. If so, it is time to re-evaluate your people, products and sales systems.

Everyone wants to work for a winner. If the people around you exude high performance and high expectations, you will perform better. Unfortunately the reverse also is true. Success hinges on passionate people who turn customers into disciples. It’s the formula that fueled the turnaround of Harley-Davidson.

2 Responses to Fueled by Passion

  1. Mike Cahill says:

    Joe, I had to tweet your line about “Success hinges on passionate people who turn customers into disciples.” I cited you in order to fend off the plagiarism lawsuit!

  2. Mike, thanks for the tweet. I always feel so honored when you forward anything that I have written, so don’t worry about any plagiarism suits from me!!!!
    – Joe

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